“Green Chimneys Provided a Safe Haven for Our Entire Family”

April 12, 2022

This parent perspective is written by Cathy Bonczek.

Jamie and a Harris hawk, April 2021

When we first visited Green Chimneys, we were a little broken. Jamie’s school experiences to date had been volatile and challenging. He was supposed to be going into third grade.

Moments after we arrived on the campus, the two gentle women who would take us around the campus focused their full attention on Jamie, not me. One said, “Jamie, do you know why you are here today?” He responded shyly, “To see the animals?”

“Yes,” she said, “but also to see if you like us and if you would like to go to school here.” Then they offered him a choice of a stuffed animal that he could keep. He chose a small black bulldog.

My heart eased quite a bit at this interaction, for it revealed the Green Chimneys spirit to me right away. They understand children, they empower children, they listen to children, and most important of all—they love children. As we settled in for the introductory remarks, there was an interruption; a recent graduate had returned to visit. He’d received his first paycheck and wanted to donate it to Green Chimneys as a way of saying thank you.

An auspicious start, indeed.

In the years that followed, Green Chimneys provided a safe haven for Jamie and for our entire family. After years of urgent phone calls from schools due to behavioral outbursts, we would instead get gentle notes saying things like, “Jamie struggled a little today but was able to turn his day around,” or “We needed to help Jamie re-direct today.”

For us, as the parents, there was no blame, just an outreach and a problem-solving approach.

Jamie learned about reading, writing and arithmetic. But he also learned to trust teachers and advisors. He learned how to help fellow students get through their hard days. He learned to ride horses and to swim safely. He learned how to speak in public and perform in a circus. He learned to respect animals, both wild and domesticated. He learned how to let a hawk rest on his arm and he initiated the role of wildlife intern at the school. He learned how to advocate for himself and to express the complicated emotions that would rise up and get in the way. He learned self-control and social skills. He even learned how to fine tune a transmission, because the school recognized his passion for cars and got him an internship at a local gas station.

We learned that we had a village to support us, as well.

Jamie graduated from Green Chimneys this past June. The ceremony was wonderful, warm and happy with everyone celebrating the success of these amazing students.

We are now celebrating Jamie’s acceptance into college, and he will begin his next adventure in the fall. As we looked at schools, the highest compliment he could give was “they remind me of Green Chimneys.”

Family-Center First

Families are the experts on their children, and we approach each child’s treatment plan with this in mind. We know from decades of experience that strong family and community connections are essential to positive growth and change and a sense of well-being. As such, we partner with parents and guardians to identify shared goals and communicate through each student’s journey. To learn more about our therapeutic day school